The Grand County High School football team defeated Millard in the 2A state quarterfinals on Friday, Oct. 26 at Moab. Although the Eagles came close to tying the game with two minutes remaining, the Red Devils scored two more touchdowns at the end to pull away with a 48-33 victory.
The big win moves Grand (now 7-3 for the year) into a 2A semifinal matchup against defending 2A champion Manti on Saturday, Nov. 3 at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. The Grand vs. Manti game is scheduled to start at 11 a.m., and will be followed by the other 2A semifinal game, San Juan vs. South Summit at 2 p.m.
Millard started off last Friday’s matchup with possession of the ball, but had an early touchdown called back because of a penalty. The Eagles eventually turned the ball over on downs at midfield. On Grand’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jacob Francis tossed the ball to Koi Cook on the right sideline. Cook then threw the ball downfield to wide receiver Aaron Lewis, who caught the pass and ran it into the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown. Francis’ extra-point kick made it 7-0 for the Red Devils.
“That first play kind of set the tone for the whole game,” said GCHS head coach Dennis Wells.
Later in the first period, Grand had advanced the ball deep inside Millard territory, but the Red Devils were facing a long fourth-and-goal situation, so Francis lined up for a field goal attempt. Instead of kicking the ball, however, he threw a touchdown pass to Kamron Call, and Grand was suddenly up 14-0.
Millard got on the scoreboard early in the second period on a 60-yard run by Jesse Rhodes, who later added a 40-yard touchdown run to bring the Eagles within one point, 14-13. The Eagles’ extra-point kick missed, however.
The Red Devils extended their lead later in the second period when Cook scored on a 15-yard run. Grand led 21-13 at halftime.
Francis completed two more touchdown passes in the third period, a 15-yarder to Cook and a 35-yard pass to Wesley Rodda. Later in the period the Eagles managed to score on a 52-yard touchdown pass of their own. The third quarter ended with Grand ahead 35-19.
But Millard came roaring back in the fourth quarter, putting up two more touchdowns and scoring on a two-point conversion after the first TD. With just over two minutes left in the game, Millard trailed by a meager two points, 35-33, and was about to go for another two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the score.
“I knew they were going to run the ball, so we went into our goal-line defense, and we stopped them,” said Wells. “That was huge, because otherwise it probably would have gone to overtime.”
Millard then tried an onside kick, which was unsuccessful, and Grand took over the ball at midfield. A few plays later, Grand was facing fourth down and seven yards to go with just over a minute left in the game, and the Red Devils decided to go for the score rather than punt. Francis connected with Rodda for a 45-yard touchdown pass, and kicked the extra point to effectively put the game out of reach, 42-33.
Millard got the ball once again, but Red Devil senior Aaron Randall intercepted a pass and ran it back for a TD, putting Grand on top 48-33 as the clock ran out.
“It was a big win for us,” Wells said. “We didn’t play as good of defense as I would have liked, but we still managed to beat a really good team. Every time they’d catch up, we’d come right back and score again.”
Grand amassed 483 yards in total offense, including 333 yards passing. Rodda and Lewis each topped 100 yards receiving. Francis led the Red Devils in rushing with 74 of the team’s 150 rushing yards.
Wells said that the Red Devils have their work cut out for them against Manti this Saturday.
“They’re the returning state champs, and can run and pass the ball really well,” he said. “They also have a really good defense.”
The winners of the two semifinal games will meet for the 2A title the following Saturday, Nov. 10, but the championship game’s location and time have not yet been determined.